Motivational PolicingOfficers apart from years of experiences or rank, there are various levels of motivation for each individual officer.  While some may say younger officers are already motivated, it is the seasoned officers may need that extra push to keep up job performance, satisfaction and motivation.  However, truly, all officers require different levels of motivation.  Given the prolonged hours of a midnight shift, working in extreme weather conditions, on particularly slow nights can be a challenging to even motivate the best of us.  It is identifying and appropriately implementing these motivational ideas for police departments to maintain and function with efficiency.

Managers and supervisors in a police department also must remember that motivation is the most significant factor towards performance improvement.  When highly motivated personnel come to work, ready to work, it is generally a good sense of the work ethic and performance that will be the end product.  When personnel seem to have a poor attitude, and a sense of “who cares”, this will be reflected within their job performance.  Many supervisors relate job performance with ability and motivation at the same time.  Ability in turn can rely on education, training and actual experience.

One question that must continually be examined is how does managing officers continue to motivate not only ourselves, but also peers and subordinates.  Effective motivation should include action oriented points, since as the saying goes…action speaks louder than words.  It is the conversation of words that can be motivated into action to realize success of officers and the overall department.  These actions ideas may be small, such as, a couple of target hours of channeled traffic enforcement in a team setting, to assigning group effort grant writing projects in order to share in establishment of goals and then realize the fruition of the accomplishments.

To maintain a high level of motivation, one must look at system to aid oneself.   Officers must get motivated every day, a desire to come to work ready go to.  In this profession, it’s tough to remain motivated over the long term; it is something that we need to apply ourselves each and every day.  Good officers tend to find ways to fuel their passion.  It is this passion that can be a powerful force to keep officers directed in a positive direction as their shift starts daily.  This is where the hard work that comes in to allow the successes to shine through.  The state of mind or mood at the start of one’s shift can set the tone for the entire shift.  It is this allows management to keep their employees upbeat from the beginning of the shift, no matter what difficulties which await them.

Performance success can be realized in a job, personal activities and other endeavors.  Another element that is vital in all performance success is a positive attitude.  Positive motivation within the department is fundamental for success and integrity that will serve as basic comradely among officers and will resonate within the community the officers serve.  This positive success and attitude unites the officer’s mindset, and ultimately links them to the positive focus of the department.  While it is hard work and tenacity of the officers to bring justice to the community, when doing their job they are connected with positive motivation the department’s success will thrive.  A saying by a famous film maker, Samuel Goldwyn “the harder I work, the luckier I get” can be applied here too.

Unlike the private sector, police work is not done for the purpose of benefiting shareholders, or making a profit.  Yes, officers work overtime to protect and serve, but there is no financial reward for doing a job well, or completing an investigation, or closing a case.  The type of motivation in this field differs greatly which is why motivation can be challenging.  While employee fears may be the same as in the private sector, fear of failure, resistant to change, altering work hours, competition of fellow employees, etc., what is different in police work is the team acceptance which is so effective in motivation.  Complacency and lethargic behaviors are concerns for departments since many officers are on their own and cannot be micromanaged, so it is important to implement reporting or some other type of action to infuse energy and responsibility for their important jobs.  Keeping a high energy level can be tough for anyone in this profession.  Action performance can and do motivate.

Another significant element to motivation is enthusiasm and drive.  Enthusiasm and a positive attitude are contagious within a department and are proven to inspire all that come in contact of these words and deeds.  All types, good and bad, of behavior within a workplace can be transmittable to employees, so the key is to promote positive action and discourage or reprimand negative actions as they may be demonstrated within the department.  These promotions will ensure productive employees, resulting in improve police work at all levels.  Additional support for job positive action and enthusiasm is to strive for the creation of an open work environment by encouraging new ideas.  This “thinking outside the box” and other new ideas will bring innovation and may confirm heightened functionality to the department.  Further, when exceptional work is illustrated, it must be recognized and/or distinguished in a timely manner.  Recognition for job well done is important to exemplify and translates into motivation for others to strive for similar respect and acknowledgement.  Acceptance of superiors is important for an officer’s self-esteem as well job satisfaction and thus is a very good motivator for job performance.  Positive recognition creates enthusiasm and provides individualized motivation.

Positive motivation is the single most important element for job satisfaction and department success which then equates into community approval and support.  By establishing and implementing changes to import motivation then attitudes will shift and the productive transformation will soon be evident.

Written by Det. Charles Dahlinger is a twenty-three year veteran of law enforcement and conducts training for police departments across the country.  He can be reached at [email protected]